Anime x Lit Crit: Vampires & Valentines – Toradora! 13

We’re officially past the halfway point for Toradora!, so yay! Also, it’s December, and fellow aniblogger Jerem is introducing “Toradora December” on his blog in celebration of the anime series close to his heart. He encourages us all to watch Toradora! with him and use the hashtag #ToradoraDecember on Twitter.

Primes: Brilliant idea! Check it out, y’all!

toradora 13.3

So, Episode 13. Taiga’s dad ditches her and sends Ryuji (not Taiga) a text apology. Yup, officially a trashy dad. There’s been enough obvious foreshadowing in the last two episodes (and from Primes XD) that this would be the case. What really made the reveal effective though, were the reactions of Ryuji and Taiga.

Primes: Man, what a jerkwad! And yeah, there’s quite a bit of foreshadowing, and yet… and yet… There was just enough of a door left cracked open for his possible redemption that it still felt like a blow when he let her down so spectacularly.

They aren’t shocked; it’s: “Of course, I should have known all along…” For Ryuji, this is amplified by a sense of guilt, because he’s been cheering Mr. Aisaka on the whole time. Why doesn’t Taiga change Ami’s lines when she goes on stage, after such blatant evidence that her father wouldn’t show up? Can’t answer that, but I do think her screaming on stage is the best result for her. RIP=RELEASE (old, but still appropriate)!

Primes: My sense was that Taiga pushed through to show that she was strong and didn’t need the sympathy of Ryuji or her other friends. I think she says as much towards the end.

Hmm, that might be so. Still, things would be quite different if Ryuji and Minori aren’t there to clap for her or win the race.

toradora 13.7
Notice Minorin in the back

Rage (and violence) is a big theme in this episode as a whole. Aside from Taiga tearing her dress and screaming into the microphone (yikes), there’s the male students’ savage race to get to Taiga and a full year’s worth of notes. I bet the “full year’s worth of notes” wouldn’t have to be added if Ms. Ohashi was Ami… Anyways, publicly ripping your dress, getting tackled, and trampling over people’s heads are all pretty wild things. The episode undermines the potential cruelty of them by allowing Taiga’s dress to tear neatly and by taking a comedic approach to the events during the race. Glorified teenage angst!!! Do you find this effective, or does it reduce the emotional impact?

Primes: If we take the emotions produced by the story as analogous to physical tastes, as I do and as the ancient Hindu philosophers did, then a story that “tastes” good is one that blends multiple emotions in the proper proportions to produce a delightful experience. The (allegedly) rom-com genre of this series allows it to get away with comedy and perhaps a bit of sanitization to balance out the heavy themes (and the heavier ones to come, I might add). If this emotional mix were not present, it would be a very different kind of story. Perhaps also one that tastes good, but still a different dish.

Quite true. I wasn’t really sure what to think when I watched the episode because it’s all kind of bizarre, but at the same time, meant to be taken seriously to a good extent. I do enjoy it the way it is, but was curious about how you or anyone else might think!

Another thing I found interesting was how the episode treats gender. The premise itself definitely isn’t subversive: beauty queen contest + race to get the girl (some sort sexual selection??). Although the characters themselves don’t consciously challenge this gender categorization, their actions end up doing so. Taiga does, um…go inside a bag instead of pose, and Minori joins in and co-wins the race to Taiga.

Primes: This has got to be one of the most emotionally-complex moments in the entire series. We are already caught up in Taiga’s emotions over her patre in absentia; we feel the boys’ desire for the class notes and against that Ryuji’s will to support Taiga; and now suddenly there’s Minori to complicate things further. We already know that Minori is close to Taiga and that Ryuji has a crush on her. To have M suddenly throw herself into the race now adds another layer on top of all this: Does M love Taiga? And then she sacrifices her lead to help Ryuji win, while crying. What does she want? And is she trying to figure that out herself?

Yup, Minori is definitely a wild card.

This episode shows just how prominent gendered categorization in Toradora!‘s world. There are several distinct types of female images that I can think of in this episode, even just based on how the girls dress. There’s Ami in her ridiculously flashy MC outfit, Taiga in her angel costume, Taiga as the school “princess” with the tiara, the row of obedient maids behind her on stage, and Minori in her cool “senpai” baseball uniform. And to think about the hyped up and dramatic challenges both the guys and girls have to participate in, it really feels like femininity and masculinity are both performances of sorts where you just have to find that role that you fit into. I felt bad watching Taiga sit through the race that revolves around her because she can’t be “Taiga” while she’s a school princess. Well, what even is “Taiga”? It’s kind of ironic that “Taiga” is pretty much synonymous to the archetype of “tsundere” on the Internet.

toradora 13.1
Men who can sew are dangerous.
toradora 13.2
Two types of girls.
toradora 13.4
No competition here.

This pressure to perform is even more enormous for Minori, who is actually surprised that she can “talk normally” to Ryuji after coming out as a possible lesbian near the end of the episode. Here, I have to say that the subtitles did a horrible job. Minori: “Perhaps I like girls more?” Ryuji’s response is translated as “I’m not so sure…,” when in reality, it should be something like “I hope that’s not true…” I do think it makes a big difference in this context, where “I’m not so sure” directly rejects Minori’s sexuality and “I hope that’s not true” is more reflective of Ryuji’s subjective response to her statement.

toradora 13.6
Toned-down revelation at the far back.

So is Minori lesbian/bi? Thinking back to her huge reaction to Ryuji and Taiga’s “relationship” in the first episode, I can surely see it. But it’s also possible that her feelings for both sexes are platonic, when I think about the monk-like role she plays in the wrestling show. And what about UFOs? Minori, you’re so unfathomable. And there’s no doubt that she herself is confused too…

Primes: I think the words “unfathomable” and “confused” hit upon the key for understanding Minori in this section. As you point out, we’ve just had a lengthy piece in which gender categories and norms have been pretty strongly outlined. I believe that Minori here calls into question these very structures. Not intentionally (as you noted above), but her attempts, and failures, to fit herself within them point out not her shortcomings but those of the structures themselves. The answer to your question as to whether she’s lesbian or bi is not “yes/no”: It is the violent destruction of even these seemingly-subversive categories along with the more established ones. Minori is Minori.

Agreed. I love you all the same, Minorin~

Signing off this post with a throwback!
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4 thoughts on “Anime x Lit Crit: Vampires & Valentines – Toradora! 13

  1. You guys raised some interesting points. I never thought about looking at this episode from the viewpoint of gender categorization. Those concepts really had me go back and watch the episode before I commented and I think you guys hit it right on the nose. I never noticed that the first time.

    I also didn’t like the translation of Minori and Ryuji’s conversation. Where did you guys watch the episode? The I believe the dub illustrates exactly what Ryuji should have said in the sub but just flat out saying “I hope your not.” which prompts that smile from Minori.

    And yes, Minori is just Minori. Awesome post guys!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m happy you saw something new in the episode then!
      Your comment made me realize that the bad subs is probably because I saw the episode with unofficial subs, and that not all subs are like this. I must admit that I’ve been getting screenshots from free streaming sites (I.e. Masterani) for this blog, because I normally watch anime with Chinese subs or no subs at all. With paid English streaming sites, I currently only have Netflix! Should really invest in another now that I’m watching more anime. Any recommended sites?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am actively trying to keep people away from Crunchyroll until they upgrade their site and videos but Crunchyroll is a option.(I still have it) Hulu is another now that they have a partnership with Funimation. (Funimation is a choice as well.) I i would do some research and see what works for you!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks! Hmm, aside from Crunchyroll, Funimation seems highly rated. I just googled it a bit, and it seems that Funimation is gradually becoming dub-focused? I highly prefer subs.

        Like

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